London and German exchanges announce merger

The London and Frankfurt stock exchanges have agreed to merge, the London Stock Exchange announced this morning. The combination creates Europe's largest stock market and a powerful regional counterweight to Wall Street.

The London exchange and Germany's Deutsche Boerse would each own 50 percent of the new entity, which is to be called iX, for International Exchanges. Its headquarters are to be in London.

Under the merger agreement, shares in blue-chip companies would be traded in London, while shares in high-tech firms would be traded in Frankfurt, the heavy U.S. Nasdaq market. The London exchange did not give specifics on this link-up with Nasdaq but said it did not involve mutual ownership.

"This merger will create benefits for investors, issuers and intermediaries regardless of their size: all market participants will benefit from lower spreads due to higher liquidity," said Werner Seifert, chief executive of Deutsche Boerse, who will be chief executive officer of iX.

Don Cruickshank, chairman-designate of the London Stock Exchange, will be chairman of iX.

The merger brings to a climax two years of fitful efforts by the London and Frankfurt exchanges to combine.

They began trying in 1998 to form the hub of a pan-European stock market and later enlarged their plan to include six other national stock markets.

The ambitious effort foundered when London and Frankfurt apparently failed to agree over issues of ownership and the type of trading platform to be used in a regional exchange.

The two exchanges have resolved their differences over technology by adopting Frankfurt's Xetra trading platform, the London exchange said.

The Anglo-German merger underscores the growing power of Frankfurt as a financial center rivaling London. While the London exchange has a larger market capitalization, the Frankfurt market is more diversified and profitable.